Two years ago, I was able to take a life-changing trip to many of the War Memorials, Commonwealth Cemeteries, and famous landmarks that marked the footsteps of World War I and World War II. After our luxuries trip in Paris and Versailles, we took the autoroute to our first stop at Arromanches, Normandy. As the site of the famous Mulberry Harbour, we were enriched with the event that took place on the 6th of June, 1944; D-Day.
Before I begin, I will give you a little insight into the history of D-Day. During World War II, after the devastation of the Dieppe Raid, the battle of Normandy began on June 6, 1944. With some 156,000 Canadian, British, and American men, troops arrived along the 50 mile stretch of the beaches. By the end of August 1944, the battle ended, resulting with the Allied liberation of Western Europe and the defeat of the Germans. The Allied forces successfully concluded the battle in Normandy and proceeded along to enter Germany. If you would like to know more about D-Day or Normandy, I have listed a few links below. In school, it was heavily emphasized that D-Day was one of the most significant moments in Canadian history. Learning about the history and being able to see the actual place, made everything so much more fascinating and interesting. I was really able to set my foot back into history and that is something that will be a part of me forever.
The day was absolutely beautiful. The picturesque blue sky followed by the mild temperature made it a great day to visit the war memorials, museums, and the beaches. Once we arrived in Arromanches, we went our separate ways to order lunch. This was my second time ordering lunch in French, but I didn’t do as well as I did in Paris. While ordering, the woman who was taking my order replied to me by saying “we speak English too.” I was a little discouraged just because of the effort, but nonetheless, the lunch itself was pretty delicious. After lunch, we browsed around the cute little town, took pictures, and stumbled across a little cute bakery. We entered the bakery to see what types of pastries they served and decided to purchase one to try. I bought a fudge chocolate brownie with filling on the inside but let me point out, it took a lot of water than expected. It was the most chocolatiest brownie I’ve ever had and it made me chug a full bottle of water after two or three bites! Needless to say, the brownie was delicious!
After roaming around for an hour and a half, we met back with the group and made our way to Musee du Debarquement; a museum to commemorate D-Day and the Normandy landings. Located on the site of the artificial harbour, remains from the War can still be seen from a couple hundred metres away. The museum itself is the permanent exhibition of the landings and overlooks the spots where the Mulberry Harbour was once constructed on Gold Beach. The museum was definitely enriching, as the history of D-Day was told through the remain of the vestiges on site. It definitely took me back in time and made me realize how important this historical event is to many Canadians, including myself. We were able to explore the museum at our desired pace, so I took the time to read many of the intriguing facts about the men who were involved and the way the harbour was constructed. Then, the group was called in to watch a film filled with real footage from the time. There, we learned about the prior events leading to D-Day as well as how British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, carried out everything; leading to the liberation of Western Europe.
After the film, we got the opportunity to go out on the beach and explore a little before heading back on the bus. In the vast distance, you could see these cliffs that stood beautifully still against the water. It was a breathtaking moment and something I vividly remember today.
Once we finished, we headed back on the bus and proceeded along to our next destination, Juno Beach. Again, Juno Beach was heavily emphasized in school, specifically in tenth grade history. Before getting a chance to go out on the beach, we visited the Juno Beach Centre, known as Canada’s Second World War museum. The centre pays tribute to the 45, 000 Canadians soldiers, who lost their lives during the Second World War. Their vision is to create a permanent memorial for all Canadians who served and for the generation today to get a better understanding of the contribution the country made. From the process of going to War all the way to Canadian values and culture, the centre included many different exhibitions that displayed the lives and hardships of those who served.
When we arrived, we were gathered into a room where we stood in a simulated landing craft and watched a film that placed us in the perspective of Canadians during the Second War. The images that were projected on the walls included the war itself, the process of going to war, and the intense training that the soldiers endured, as well as D-Day. Voice-overs were played, as we got to listen to Canadian soldiers and families describe their feelings and experiences at the time.
When we exited the film room, we explored a little more of the exhibit before heading out. It was really interesting to see the numerous archives they had, especially the letters and photographs from actual soldiers. Once we were done touring, we looked around their store and made purchases before leaving the centre. During the entire course of the trip, I’ve purchased pins from the places I’ve visited, so I decided to purchase one since this was another significant place. Funny story, when one of my friends asked how much the pin was, I snapped and told her that it was three pesos. Not realizing that I kept saying pesos, I literally repeated until she asked what pesos were. Yes, it has been a while since I’ve traveled to Cuba, so I literally have no idea where pesos came from. Anyway, after making our purchases we continued along to explore the beach!
As we walked along the coast of Juno Beach, there was this unpleasant smell that swift across the shoreline. Many of us did not like it, especially when the stench got on our clothing. However, we did enjoy walking, taking pictures, skipping rocks, and dipping our feet in the water. I actually didn’t dip my feet but I did skip some rocks before boarding the bus.
Following our visit to the exhibit, we continued along Normandy and stopped at our very first Commonwealth cemetery; Bény-sur-Mer. Before we visited the cemeteries, we were given a token to place on the graves to mark our respect. I decided to place mine at Bény-sur-Mer, as this was my first Commonwealth cemetery. The cemetery was very quiet and peaceful as no one made a sound. If you ever have a chance to visit one, words cannot explain how you will feel. I am not able to tell you the way I felt because there are just no words to describe it. We spent a good amount of time paying our respects to the fallen soldiers and to tell you the truth I felt down. When I go back to France, I will definitely make a trip back to Bény-sur-Mer, as well as the other cemeteries I have visited on the trip.
After a long history-filled day, we traveled to a Tavern in Caen for a roast pork dinner. The dinner itself was not as great as I am not a pork lover nor do I eat pork on a regular basis. I was actually not a fan of the entire course especially the dessert where we were served custard pudding that was not scrumptious at all. Once we checked into our Normandy hotel in Caen, I literally munched on the snacks I brought from home. The night ended off with social media, messaging our parents, and sleeping for another day to learn about history.
To learn more about Normandy CLICK HERE
Want to learn more about the History of D-Day? CLICK HERE
Learn more about the D-Day Museum CLICK HERE
Juno Beach and the Exhibit Centre CLICK HERE